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Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Resourceful Time of Prayer: Praying in the Car

"Pray without ceasing." -St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Since I have gotten married, moved, started a new job, and adopted a pet, I am finding it difficult to incorporate daily prayer into my life. It was much easier over the last two years as a campus missionary when I had a church in my backyard and prayer in my job description. 

One way that I've begun to re-incorporate God into my daily life is by praying during my drive. I have a 20-30 minute commute to and from work each day, so I try to use that time to connect with God through prayer in one way or another. 

In this Associated Content article, I give ten tips to turn your stressful commute into a time of peaceful prayer. 

In what ways do you pray throughout the day?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sex, Hell, and the Pope

"Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keeps the law, happy [is] he."  Proverbs 29:18     

In this Associated Content article, I respond to another article that exemplifies several misconceptions about the Church and explores the idea that many Catholics do not practice their faith.

Do you practice your faith? Have you always? Why or why not?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fulfillment in Relationships

"My soul finds rest in God alone..." Psalm 62

In this Associated Content article, I delve into the danger of seeking fulfillment in another person. In an effort to remain religiously neutral (thus planting seeds in the minds of a wider audience, rather than immediately deterring those who will not indulge any religiously-based writing), I did not fully acknowledge the role that God plays in our ultimate fulfillment.

Here is the text I would add to an audience of Christians:

Our ultimate destiny and fulfillment is God. We should be seeking that union with Him first, before we can be in a relationship with another person. Why? Because each of us has a “missing piece,” as Shel Silverstein alluded. We were designed that way. God made Himself our “missing piece” in order that we might seek what will truly make us happy – eternal life with Him in Heaven. Every time we try to fill that gaping hole with something else – food, alcohol, mindless entertainment, work, or especially a relationship – we will still find ourselves strangely and confusingly unfulfilled. It is only when we turn to God and realize that the ache we feel inside of us – the hunger, loneliness, emptiness– will only be satisfied in Heaven, that we then can give ourselves as a gift to another person in a relationship, without having to place all of our needs for fulfillment onto that person.

Christopher West, Catholic theologian who explains the late John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” in layman’s terms, wrote in his book Theology of the Body for Beginners, “…every human longing, every desire of the heart for love and union, will be fulfilled beyond our wildest dreams [in heaven]. That deep 'ache' of solitude will finally be completely and eternally satisfied.

“Experience attests that even the most wonderful marriage doesn't fully satisfy our hunger for love and union. We still yearn for 'something more’… Do not hang your hat on a hook that cannot bear the weight! If we look to another person as our ultimate fulfillment, we will crush that person. Only the eternal, ecstatic, 'marriage' of heaven - so far superior to anything proper to earthly life that we can't begin to fathom it - can satisfy the human 'ache' of solitude." (Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West, pp. 58)

Perhaps Christopher West and Shel Silverstein are sending the same message. Each of these two books by Shel Silverstein describes the ache we feel for a relationship, the difficulty we experience finding that relationship, and the tendency to lose ourselves when inside that relationship. Does the “Big O” in some ways represent God, telling the missing piece that it does not need another person in order to “roll”? Eventually, the piece finds its “PEACE” with the “Big O.” We, too, are destined to find that peace with God.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not arguing that we should never get into a relationship at all! On the contrary, romantic relationships built on authentic love are a beautiful way to imitate God’s love for one another and give each other a foreshadowing of that ultimate fulfillment – Heaven – on earth. But as you are looking for your next relationship, remember this: Whatever person you find will not be perfect. He or she will not be able to fulfill you entirely. Look for that “missing piece” in God first, and the rest will fall into place!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Being the Mouthpiece of God

" strength is made perfect in weakness." (Eph. 12:9)

Last night, I had the honor of dining with Sr. Constance. She is the former adviser of the women's household at the university parish where I am employed, and she invited all 7 household members and me (as the current adviser) for dinner at her residence last night.

Sister asked us to reflect upon how God has shown His glory to us over the course of our time at our university parish. She wondered how God has manifested Himself to us as He manifested Himself to Moses in the burning bush. 

God certainly manifests Himself in many ways - not so much in as visual and evident ways as He did with Moses (much to the dismay of some people), but in ways that speak to the quiet of our hearts where He lives in Spirit.

For me, He has manifested Himself primarily through people. I am astounded when I hear God's voice spoken through the mouths of His children - through the kind word of encouragement when I need it most, the perspective offered when I am seeing things through a haze, and the loving phrase whispered in my ear by my fiance when I am finding myself unlovable. It is in these moments that I feel I am closest to God, and they usually happen when I am looking for Him the least.

We truly have the opportunity to be the mouthpiece, the feet, the hands, and the loving arms of God for those He places in our lives, and we will never know how even the simplest gesture of love can make a monumental difference.

Sister provided us with this beautiful reflection, which indicates how we are called to live our lives as children of God:

Only God creates
But we are called to enhance that creation
Only God gives life
But we are called to cherish life
Only God makes to grow
But we are called to nurture that growth
Only God gives faith
But we are called to be signs of God for each other
Only God gives love
But we are called to care for each other
Only God gives hope
But we are called to give each other reason to hope
Only God gives power
But we are called to get things going
Only God can bring peace
But we are called to build bridges
Only God brings happiness
But we are called to be joyful
Only God is the way
But we are called to show others the way
Only God is the light
But we are called to make that light shine in the world
Only God makes miracles happen
But we must offer our loaves and fishes
Only God can do the impossible
But it is up to us to do what is possible.  

I think it's important to remember that God is perfect, and we never will be while on earth - but we are still made in His image and likeness. This means we are meant to imitate Him, to bring His love in every tiny way we can to all of His beloved children, to strive for perfection, no matter how far off it may seem.

Little by little, we can build the Kingdom of God on earth by doing the very best we can with our imperfect selves. After all, as the Lord told St. Paul, "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

God's Perspective

"You are precious in my eyes, and glorious, and I love you." -God (Isaiah 43:4)

Yesterday, I prayed a very simple prayer. "God, how can I be better?"

The answer came as one word: "Perspective."

I thought, "Yes. This is an excellent answer. I need perspective. Perspective that will help me not stress about the little things. Perspective that will remind me what is truly important."

It wasn't until today during Adoration that I grasped the full meaning of what God was saying to me. He wasn't encouraging me to gain perspective, in general. He was encouraging me to see the world from His perspective.

What does the perspective of God look like?

I imagine it looks like radiant love covering every ounce of the earth, reaching every precious and beloved soul, connecting all Creation and history together, and drawing it all to Himself.

Looking at the world through the eyes of God would change everything. I would be in love with each person I met. I would see the higher meaning and purpose in everything. I would choose to  be led by the Spirit at every turn. Nothing would matter but participating in a union of love with God and neighbor.

If I succeeded in doing this for just one day, I am convinced my life would be unalterably transformed.

Of course, I would probably fail. After all, it is God's perspective. 

But perhaps I am being called to try.

Monday, April 19, 2010

5 Things that are Special about Being Catholic

"Peter, you are Rock, and upon you I will build My Church." Matthew 16:18

This weekend, I facilitated a retreat for our 8th grade Confirmation class. They all arrived thinking the day was going to be a necessary evil - boring, dragging on, and uninformative. By the end of the day, they were exclaiming, "Today went fast! This was fun! We should do this again!" In their reflections, one wrote, "I love being Catholic!"

What was it that got them so excited? The very essence of what we were called there to study: Our Catholic Church.

My goal for the day was to help them realize what's special about being Catholic - why they should be excited that they are choosing to confirm their Catholic faith rather than any other faith in the world. We made a poster with 5 main reasons it is "special" to be Catholic:

1. Universality
We are "one, holy, catholic, apostolic church." The kids were amazed that what we do here in Bowling Green, Ohio, is the same as is done in Italy or, as our presenter put it, "an underground church in China that's Catholic." We believe the same things. We practice the same things. We are led by the same Holy Father. We are one, just as Jesus prayed we would be. And we have been doing this for 2,000 years - since Christ Himself implemented the Church before his death.

2. Mary
We have a reverence for the Holy Mother of God. This does not mean we worship her or hold her equal to God - but we see her as a role model, a very powerful intercessor, and a mother who can lead us closer to her Divine Son. The kids learned that Mary, once assumed into Heaven, has been making appearances throughout history to encourage people to believe in God and to pray.

3. Service
Our Church places emphasis on loving our neighbor through service. Jesus told us that whatever we do to the least of his people, we do to Him. The spirit of the Gospel is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The point of being human is to live up to our likeness to God - and His essence is to give of Himself in love until He has no more to give (which will never happen, because He is infinite). As St. Francis of Assisi said, "It is in giving of ourselves that we receive." What do we receive? Fulfillment of our divine purpose, and, God willing, eternal life with Him.

4. Confession
Though an often scorned aspect of the Catholic faith, I see the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the most beautiful. I could go into reasons why we need the Sacrament in cases of mortal sin, but instead, I will discuss why it is a gift. God, having created us, knows and understands our desire for the tangible. Yes, when I commit a small sin, I can turn to God, acknowledge my wrong, and ask for His forgiveness in prayer, and He will grant it. But when I can go into the confessional, knowing that Jesus is working through the priest, and speak the words aloud, hear the absolution, and feel the forgiving touch of the priest upon my head, there is something much more substantial and transformative about that experience. Confession is a gift, and the graces that flow from it are immeasurable.

5. The Eucharist
Without a doubt the greatest thing that is "special" about being Catholic - and special being a drastic understatement - is the Eucharist. Our Lord and God, the sovereign Creator of the universe, lover of my soul, savior of my life, embodies Himself in lowly bread and wine, coming to His people in order that they may be substantially united with Him. This is the ultimate union, a foreshadowing of Heaven, fulfillment of our destiny - to be one with our Lord. This tiny paragraph does this unimaginable miracle no justice. I only wish that I could learn not to take it for granted any time I receive this precious gift.

Nolan, Hanna, Abby, Gabbie, Jessica, and Katie will be confirmed on May 8th. They are 13, but the future of our Church is in their hands. I pray that they will learn the faith they are inheriting, teach it well, enjoy the countless blessings it brings, and, in the true spirit of John 10:10, live it to the full.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not Abstinence-Only, but Waiting by Choice

"For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and they will become one flesh." Genesis 2:24

Biological, social, and personal reasons to save the beauty of sex for the lifelong commitment of marriage:

Not Abstinence-Only, but Waiting by Choice